Universalist Radha Krishnaism (Part 4)

Dr. Michael Valle and Subal Das continue our conversation:

MV: Universalist systems of spirituality are often criticized as being too permissive. You have written that all of the primary religious texts in the world are revealed, although you concede that some may be more advanced than others. How might a person identify a candidate scripture as lacking the characteristic of being revealed? In other words, what specific things can help us to distinguish the real thing from its compliment?

SD: I do not place much emphasis on the revealed nature of scripture. Some naively believe the Bible was sort of just dropped down from the sky in the King James Version as the final Word of God. Others believe the Bhagavad Gita was spoken 5,000 years ago by Krishna and we have the exact words he spoke.

Whereas in truth, the Bible was composed over centuries with different layers of textual redaction. The historical existence of Abraham and Moses is questionable, as is the exodus. Even the authorship of some letters attributed to Peter and Paul is decidedly not theirs. Then we have The Revelation to John, which is like science fiction addressing the problems of his day rather than predicting what will happen in our day. So, what is revealed scripture? Was the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts and minds of these authors? I hope so.

The Bhagavad Gita was probably written in the third century B.C.E. as a Vaishnava response to the popularity of Buddhism, Jainism and other non-Vedic sects. It was later inserted into the Mahabharat, an earlier “history” of India, in which Krishna played a major role. In this way, the Vedic writings expanded somewhat akin to the Jewish midrashic tradition. Does Krishna speak to us through the Bhagavad Gita? Does it contain revealed knowledge? I think so.

The word of God-dess is found within the scriptures, as well as other inspired writings and utterances. Not every word in the scriptures is the word of God-dess, since some scriptures contain some pretty awful, non-spiritual writings that are better rejected.

The main thing is, does the scripture touch your heart and awaken love of God-dess? Does it promote love, unity, respect for creation, peace and justice? Can you relate to it on a deep inner level and does it make sense to you? Remember, the scriptures are all written by human authors who have human limitations and fallibilities. They are usually written long ago, in quite foreign contexts, and need to be reinterpreted for today’s sensibilities through the process of exegesis and hermeneutics. Through discernment, one must decide if the scripture reveals God-dess to you or does it further cloud the issue and mislead.

MV: You write: “When we place our faith or ultimate concern/passion in something that is not ultimate, that is idolatry. This can take the form of nationalism, success, Jesusolatry, or taking the symbol to be the object itself, whether that is the myth, the sect, a particular concept.” As we know, many systems of Sanatan Dharm require us to be completely free of worldly influences in order to escape samsara. Is it, in your opinion, possible to achieve the goal even if one, in addition to spiritual practice, also puts significant effort into his/her success, country, family, home, wealth, etc.? Is it all or nothing, or is it a matter of shades of gray? Is the rich man truly a camel stuck in the eye of a needle?

SD: I reject those systems that require complete freedom of worldly influences. That is not possible as long as we are in the world. Even if one rejects worldly influence, that is still a worldly influence. Renunciation is not conducive to the development of love and devotion. It tends to harden the heart. Our goal is not to escape samsara, but to develop love of God-dess. When we develop pure love, we are able to transmute matter into spirit and make all our actions acts of devotion.

Our ultimate concern needs to be love of God-dess. However, the secondary concerns you mention certainly have their place. Most of us need to earn a living, be a citizen, have a home and family. We should not over-endeavor for these things, but a significant effort is usually required. It’s a matter of priorities. Everything we do can be done as an act of devotion.

Chaitanya taught Raghunath Das, “For the time being, enjoy the material world in a befitting way but do not become attached to it. Within your heart, you should keep yourself very faithful, but externally you may behave like an ordinary person. Thus, Krishna will soon be very pleased and deliver you from the clutches of illusion.”  Chaitanya Charitamrita

Jimmy Carter is an example of a rich, powerful person of faith who serves his country and the world with integrity. Maharaj Pratap Rudra was a powerful king who used his wealth and power to serve Chaitanya, Jaganath and the devotees. Jesus also had his wealthy followers who supported his mission. Everything can be used in Radha Krishna’s service. Arjun even used his military prowess to serve Krishna. There’s a proper use for everything. Devotees should become expert at this rather than simply rejecting things as worldly.

We learn to live as spiritual beings here on earth, one with the earth and life, the God-dess in all. While here, we embrace a lifestyle of simple living and high thinking, offering all to God-dess as a living sacrifice of love. We become vessels of divine love, bringing reconciliation to all. While we act in accord with eternal spiritual values, we live in the present as fully participating members of global society working for the well-being of all, each according to our capacity.

We work in coalition with those of like mind to address issues of peace, justice and the integrity of the environment. We seek to find common ground rather than differences. May love unite us all as we manifest the rule of God-dess here on earth.
This is not a passive, other-worldly faith that does not engage our present predicament, but offers a spiritual solution to the human predicament we find ourselves in. There is a battle raging for the hearts and minds of humankind. We should not idly stand on the sidelines, but be active participants in manifesting God-dess’ will here on earth.

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